Eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar went into a meeting with his UN-backed rival Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj and other leaders, an Italian official said, ahead of more inclusive roundtable talks..
Libya's two main rival leaders met for the first time in more than five months and the prime minister backed a United Nations plan for an election next year, as Italy hosted a reconciliation conference a week after a vote was shelved for next month.
News of Haftar's participation in the conference is baseless, a military statement said Tuesday.
But Serraj's spokesman said on Twitter the prime minister was committed to a United Nations road map to hold an election in the spring after a constitutional framework is put in place.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his Tunisian counterpart, Beji Caid Essebsi, are among a number of leaders who are attending the conference.
Italy's efforts to host a summit on stabilizing Libya after its seven-year-old conflict appeared to fall flat Tuesday, as organizers on the second and final day of the meeting in Sicily failed to even confirm whether representatives of the main factions were attending. The envoy said 80 percent of Libyans insist on having elections.
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Serraj heads the government in the west, which has struggled to exert control beyond the capital Tripoli.
Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and it is now governed by rival administrations in the east and west with both relying on the support of militias.
He added that he hoped Libyans would agree on a form for the constitution referendum in the National Conference in Libya in early 2019 and then carry out a vote for the constitution between late March and late June.
Haftar arrived in Palermo late on Monday but did not take part in the opening dinner.
His decision to withdraw was due to Turkey being excluded by an informal meeting among major Libyan rivals, to which some other regional and global actors were invited, according to media reports.
The agreement has been repeatedly described by the global community and by several Libyan stakeholders as the only unifying base for all Libyans and as a political framework for a transitional phase that would enable Libya set up legitimate and strong institutions. Recall that in June of previous year, several Arab states - including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and United Arab Emirates (UAE) - broke relations with Qatar and imposed an air, sea and land blockade on Qatar.